The Secret History of Costaguana, By Juan Gabriel Vásquez (trs Anne McLean)

There's the seed of a great novel in here somewhere

You can only tell your reader that "it's too soon to explain everything" once.

The self-consciously postmodern flavour of Juan Gabriel Vásquez's historical novel – in which the Colombian Jose Altamirano claims to have given Joseph Conrad the idea for his novel Nostromo – has been done to death. Wrong-footing the reader with characters that appear only to disappear again, and deliberate confusion over the sequences of events, is also a too familiar trick – even if it is meant to mirror the complexity and violence of an emerging nation.

But there's a great idea for a novel in here somewhere. Vasquez can be both funny and erudite, and his protagonist is appealing in his love for a father who barely knows him.